Friday, July 20, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Digital Citizenship

No poem this week. Sorry. I've got other issues on my mind. Please read this post as a PSA, not a rant or a finger-pointing accusation. 

Earlier this week, I received this email from J. Patrick Lewis (used here with his permission):

Dear Mary Lee,
Could you please answer a question for me? Suppose you wanted to post a poem on your blog that was written by say, Philip Larkin or Elizabeth Bishop (or any famous poet not in the public domain). Could you do so without securing permission and paying for rights? I see such poems all over the internet, and I always wonder if the poet's permission to post was secured.

Here's my answer (not exactly as I wrote it -- I edited it a bit for this post):

The short answer to that question is that no, a person should never publish a poem on one's own blog/site that's not in the public domain unless permission has been secured (and is included in the post).

The true answer is the one you've discovered for yourself -- people do it all the time.

The grey space between the short answer and the true answer is the digital citizenship that many Poetry Friday bloggers try to teach by example. If we can't get permission for the poem, we post part of it and link to the site where we found it. Or we link to the book it is from, so that our reproduction of the poem is a form of advertising for the author. The same is true for the images we use on our blog. I mostly use my own photos, but when either of us use a picture that's not our own, we take it from Flickr Creative Commons and cite attribution. We do use book cover images without asking for permission, but always in the context of a positive review of the book and a link for purchase as our form of attribution.

Thank you for your question. It pulled my mission as a teacher into sharper focus than ever: it is so essential, so necessary, so mandatory that at school, children are given the opportunity to live the creative life -- reading, writing, making stuff (actual and digital) and sharing their own creations. If they never live on the creative side (even just playing at it, practicing it at school), they will never understand the importance of securing permissions. Because they will fail to see why it matters until they have THEIR stuff out there and they want others not to steal/misuse THEIR creation.
Kate Messner wrote on this topic yesterday in a post that's a little closer to home -- how to share content from other blogs: "About Copyright and Sharing Content".  Her bottom line is a good one to keep in mind:

"When in doubt, don’t copy and paste. Link to the original content on the site where it was originally published."

Thank you for your patience with this departure from the usual light fare of Poetry Friday. Go check out the other offerings on the Poetry Friday Roundup at A Teaching Life.


  1. Thanks for reminding us all about digital copyright issues!

  2. Thank you, Mary Lee, for this post. I came to it right after reading Kate's words. Such reminders are important. I hope that your summer and writing life are treating you well!

  3. What a great post, Mary Lee. It's great to have this reminder from time to time. And it's something I am always addressing with students.

  4. Important message.

  5. Our media specialist does a PD about copyright every year. Like Jone, I'm always reminding my students about this issue.

  6. Good stuff, Mary Lee. Perhaps students may *wish* that someone they didn't know would want to post their stuff, and not really get that someone else wouldn't feel the same way. So they may understand that other artists wouldn't want their work changed, but not understand that they wouldn't want it shared.

  7. Such an important reminder.

    I would love to hear J.Patrick Lewis'response. Sometimes when I review a poetry book, I'm tempted to include one poem so that people can get the flavor for the book. Wonder how poets feel about that?


  8. Hi Mary Lee. Interesting exchange. I've taken the cue from other Poetry Friday participants on the "How much to share?" issue, but when I made my debut at The Hardball Times, I really wanted to share a poem by Marianne Moore in its entirety, so I searched around and found this:

    Not sure how much authority this has, but I found it very compelling.


  9. Anonymous2:08 AM

    A swashbuckler of a bow to you, Mary Lee, for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully. My query had to do with famous poets and poetry. For those of us who aren't famous, I would want to see our poems get the widest possible exposure. Gratis, of course, on blogs.
    Adoption in textbooks, anthologies, and the like are an iguana of a different hue.


Comment moderation is turned on.